Video Games

Rating Video Games for Sexism? Ugliest Swedish Export Since Tor Johnson


The Daily Beast

I've got a new Daily Beast column up about Sweden's plan to rate video games for sexist content. Snippets:

God bless—Odin bless?—the politically correct Swedes, who are currently working on what might become that country's ugliest export since Tor Johnson.

As the shouting match over the role and depiction of gender and sexuality in video games that's part of "Gamergate" fires up the blogosphere, Sweden's "government-funded innovation agency" Vinnova are, along with the country's video game association, developing a ratings system to track "sexist" content in games. Given our own country's history of slapping "voluntary" ratings (read: implemented under threat of government regulation) on everything from movies to comic books to record albums to TV shows to…video games, it probably won't be long before a "Rated S for Sexism" designation starts getting debated or enacted right here in the Land of the Free.

I run through various examples of how American nannies and censors shut down various aspects of pop culture (can't trust the masses, can we?) and resurrect one of the great unremembered mini-scandals of the Clinton years:


There's always a temptation to shut down conversation, especially for people who think they can control the means of cultural production through coercive means. It was a huge scandal back in 2000 when Salon discovered that the federal drug czar's office under Bill Clinton leaned on network shows such as ER andBeverly Hills 90210 to fill "their episodes with anti-drug pitches to cash in on a complex government advertising subsidy." It got so bad, Salon reported, that "government officials and their contractors began approving, and in some cases altering, the scripts of shows before they were aired to conform with the government's anti-drug messages."

Besides the mendacity of it all, such a scheme misses the obvious truth that "the audience has a mind of its own." Which brings us back to Sweden's proposed ratings system and top-down noodging of video game makers to "change the way we think about things" in a proper progressive direction. At least the Swedish plan is public knowledge. But it's just as unlikely to have any effect on gender relations or how people play video games as a drug-czar-approved episode of Beverly Hills 90210 kept kids from becoming crackheads.

Read the whole thing.

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  1. You can’t see it but Lady Liberty back there is weeping. I don’t know why, since it’s Sweden and not the United States but, hey, women get hysterical. What can you do?

  2. “S” is for Sexxxy!

  3. …the left-wing psychiatrist Fredric Wertham fretted that the popularity of a hyper-masculine Wonder Woman would turn girls into lesbians (she was an Amazon, after all!) and scenes of domestic bliss involving Bruce Wayne and his young ward “Dick” Grayson (the scare quotes are in Wertham’s classic Seduction of the Innocent) would limpen the wrists of adolescent boys.

    Well, how do we know they didn’t? I mean, we do see more homosexuals out and about these days. Something had to have caused it. And if that something had had a warning label maybe we wouldn’t be suffering the same-sex marriage debate today.

      1. What people tend to forget is that the guy who came up with Wonder Woman was really into bondage.

        “The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound… Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society… Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element.”

    1. She doesn’t look like an Amazon. Seems to have two breasts.

  4. Establishment culture is dry as fuck and it works feverishly to maintain this edge-defying constant. Colorful characters bending propriety and speech codes are anathema to the censorious. Oh, what the universe hath wrought…

  5. If I were a game developer, I would be working on a scenario in which the player(s) engage in terrorism and guerrilla warfare against government entities and hunt down and assassinate government officials.

  6. Sweden is the Petri dish for the radfem virus. Do not interrupt the experiment!

    1. yeah but how the hell did the epicenter of the frigging VIKINGS become the complete opposite of masculinity?

      Kind of like how in the hell did the Scots, the people who would not be conquered all of a sudden become such panty waisted wards of the state?

      1. I’ve been wondering about that for a long time. I got nothin. Welfare? Migration?

        1. Because the adventurous bad asses left, or were kicked out.

        2. Neither country has had significant migration before 1990 and most of these cultural control codes are coming from natives.

          I think it’s a combination of homogenity and a high trust culture. Historically, the societies were clannish (literally with the Scots) and there was a lot of non-formalized social pressure to conform to a high productivity, highly social norm. With that being the case, crime in general and abuses of power specifically were rare. There was little gaming of the system and in general the cultural conformity was positive. Furthermore, laws (that we would consider obtrusive) are seen as an extension of the clannish social conformity system.

          I’m doubtful that such a structure can survive very long with large scale immigration, multiple generations of welfare and access via the internet and international media to outside ideas. Most likely the tight homogenous culture is fragmenting and losing it’s ability to indirectly control society. So, various groups are stepping in and using the State as a proxy for the previous social pressure.

          1. I was thinking more along the lines of what WTF said. All the real hard asses in society slowly left, leaving mostly complacent lay abouts.

          2. Neither country has had significant migration before 1990 and most of these cultural control codes are coming from natives.

            This has to be one of the most bizarre things that could be said about Scotland. There has been a lot of migration historically between Scotland and England, and while the numbers aren’t “significant” all of the talent left Scotland a long time ago. Emigration is still migration.

      2. All the Viking masculinity and violence is so concentrated in Scandinavian metal bands that there is none left for anyone else.

    2. I don’t know either. At least one European should get the full brunt of ethnic-cultural masochism. Since Sweden is already waist deep in the endeavor, I propose that they lead the charge.

  7. Can’t we just accept that the main characters in most video games are idealized versions of both genders?

    The same reason you never play as some frumpy, doughy female is the same reason you never play as some balding, pot-bellied male: no one wants to envision themselves as that kind of protagonist.

    1. Umm, I actually have specced a character as a balding fat guy.

      1. I have a feeling some context applies to this. Did you have to watch him throughout the whole game? I like some eye candy when I play. I don’t want to watch a balding fat guy’s ass sashay around on my screen.

        I almost always make my characters gorgeous. Unless there’s an option for horns or tusks–then I’ll make them as brutal looking as I can.

      2. My brother and I used to do the same thing when we played SWG. In one instance, my brother played a fat, balding, inverse version of Han Solo and I played a mentally challenged Wookie.

        In another, I played a Tony Cliftonesque Mon Calamari and he was my hideous Twilek bodyguard/agent/debt collector.

        Fun times.

    2. I don’t know, I’ve had a lot of fun playing a massively fat neckbeard thanks to Saint’s Row.

    3. Can’t we just accept that the main characters in most video games are idealized versions of both genders?

      Fuck the protagonist. They’re the ones usually doing the raping/killing/pillaging.

      The unspoken vigintillions of dead antagonists, overwhelmingly male, who weeps for them?

  8. Sweden’s “government-funded innovation agency” Vinnova are, along with the country’s video game association, developing a ratings system to track “sexist” content in games.

    Isn’t tracking, by definition, *not* innovating? Sweden needs to get their money back.

    I expect the tracking system to be put into full effect and Vinnova and the country’s video game association to learn that games devoid of all sexist notions, by-and-large, don’t sell.

    1. Lets not forget the true genuis of Feminism.

      The game itself need not have any notions of sexism, one can be ex post facto read into it by whoever wants to take the most extreme view on totally innocuous portions of the game and then magically the games developers become sexist agents of the patriarchy

      1. Good example is the recent Assassin’s Creed Unity co-op thing. Basically, Ubisoft only had a male option, the main character of the game, as the character you play in co-op. Cue feminists arguing that they were being sexist and non-inclusive. Cue the developer saying that they didn’t want to waste time and money making completely new assets for a small part of the game. Cue continued internet freakout.

    2. What’s your definition of “tracking”?

      Maybe the tracking is the innovation. Innovations aren’t necessarily good or productive.

  9. Foot… in the door. The terrorists won.

  10. There’s always a temptation to shut down conversation, especially for people who think they can control the means of cultural production through coercive means.

    Authoritarian Progs (I repeat myself) believe they can control ANYTHING through coercive means. They intend to rule you.

  11. Sweden has a government funded innovation agency. That explains why we are flooded with Swedish innovation.

    Also, I can’t wait to see how these rating affect sales. I am guessing the more sexist, the higher the sales; Streisand effect.

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